A Letter to the President
by Abdullah Mulhim
As you embark on four years in office, facing major issues, attacking obstacles, and trying to find solutions to domestic and international problems, I would like to offer my help in resolving one of the major problems that has faced us in the past century and which continues to be a puzzle in finding a solution to. I would like to advise you on the Middle East problem. I understand that I am not a political advisor, I understand I lack experience in international diplomacy, and I am not a Harvard or Yale graduate, but as a young Palestinian who grew up in the Middle East, I lived under the harsh and difficult circumstances of the Israeli occupation, and I witnessed failed negotiations and a peace process that neglects one of the main parties in this conflict: the young generation of Arabs.
Since the days of the Lyndon Johnson administration, the U.S policy toward the Middle East has been to build a full partnership with Israel, while the continuous call for democracy in the Arab world has in fact been followed by blind US support for authoritarian Arab regimes that don’t threaten American interests in the region. It is a policy that has been effective until now, despite its major flaw, namely ignoring the ambitions of a generation of young Arabs, who have their own dreams and goals of a better social and economic situation. This policy, given the events of September 11th, the failure of the peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the unstable situation in Iraq, needs to be rethought. It requires an overhaul of the State Department’s views toward the Middle East. The policy I propose asks the new administration to choose the young Arabs as a partner and for the first time to truly follow up on previous demands for full democracy and human rights in the region. It asks the President to dump the old guards of the Middle East, such as the current Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi regimes, and to put full pressure on Israel, economically and military, to fully withdraw from Palestinian lands occupied in 1967. These actions require courage and would be difficult, but are necessary to assure a better future for both the United States and the Middle East.
These steps will draw the young Arabs away from radical movements which have flourished under the current US policy. These groups offer young Arabs, who see their dreams as unachievable in the current situation, a hope for a better life, even though these young Arabs disagree with the tactics and goals of these groups in changing the current regimes and guards of the region. Those radical groups have shown the failure of the US policy in achieving stability economically or socially for the region. Their success highlights the fact that poverty has grown to its highest level among Arabs. That the region is not developing economically, as most Arab countries are becoming more and more consuming markets, without any source of agriculture or production income. That freedom of speech is just a dream. These radical groups cherish the current US policy and the current situation, as they sell young Arabs the hope, that with them, change will happen in the region. These changes, they say, despite being unclear of what they are, will bring a new hope and a fresh start that might help brighten the future that we all dream of.
The past ten years those young educated Arabs have been crying for change as they protested in Egypt, went to the streets in Lebanon, participated in free elections in the Palestinian territories, and used the limited free media outlets available to them in Saudi Arabia. As they asked for changes and said enough to current conditions, they extended their hand to the US and the world for help in their cause. Those actions went ignored by the US and the West, however, who instead launched more attacks on the Palestinians and Iraqis, supported the Egyptian regime’s detention of Muslim Brotherhood candidates running for election, and published humiliating pictures of the prophet Mohammad. These events further showed the ineffectiveness of the current Arab regimes ability to support and protect their own people. Actions that the US could have avoided, they instead promoted, and stood firm with their authoritarian allies in the Middle East, giving those radical groups more fuel and power in recruiting ambitious young Arabs looking for a better future and self respect.
Mr./Mrs. President I ask you when you take office not to continue the current policy, but to have a different vision for the Middle East, knowing that the majority of Arabs are young, ambitious individuals, who, like every other young person, hope for a decent life under good social, economic, and political conditions. They are in search of self respect, freedom and the realization of personal goals. They hope for equality and a better future for themselves and their kids. They are in search of a peaceful region empty of corruption. They are in search of leaders that give them hope. I ask you to take active steps toward the realization of Arab interests. Those actions will help in securing the interests and future of the US, and will weaken those radical groups and limit their recruiting abilities.